Bakersfield College

HEAL Rural Health Equity and Learning Collaborative

Health, Equity, and Learning Collaborative

Join the HEAL Collaborative

Considering becoming a HEAL partner? For more information, please contact Norma Rojas-Mora.

Join our mailing list to stay connected!


Our Mission

To lift the voices of California’s San Joaquin Valley rural communities by connecting available resources and bringing policy changes needed to improve health.

What is Health Equity?

Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences.

Map of of Counties in Central California

The Rural HEAL Collaborative is passionate about improving health, education and economic outcomes in rural communities throughout California’s San Joaquin Valley.

Our methodology for engagement takes the shape of effective partnerships, which are essential for community-based solutions for advancing health equity. By facilitating a shared vision and values, we work to increase communities' capacities to shape outcomes, and foster multi-sector collaboration for the benefit of all.

The HEAL Collaborative is located in an ethnically and economically diverse geographic region, offering the relevant research capacity and ability to link to rural areas together. Within our region, we understand how the lack of access to education, food, and economic opportunities leads to medical deserts and chronic disease epidemics. As a result of our education, health, NGO, industry and political partnerships, we see how collaboration breeds innovation to tackle the challenges of building and sustaining healthy, rural communities.

The 26,000-square miles of the San Joaquin Valley, from Merced to Kern County, constitutes a significant population of low-income rural residents with the nation's lowest educational attainment. The lack of education translates to reduced employment opportunities, increased poverty, and limited access to healthcare. In California's Central Valley, like rural communities across America, residents encounter meager resources to improve workforce and economic development. Likewise, rural communities experience few opportunities to carry out research and evaluate failing systems or leverage social and political power to eliminate health inequities. Ensuring that rural San Joaquin Valley communities meet workforce demands and attain economic stability is integral to the success of our nation. In rural regions, where populations are more dispersed and farther from major job centers, labor markets face different challenges than those in metro areas, where people are closer to education, training, and employment options.

As we continue to build the HEAL Collaborative, ongoing dialogue and strategic convenings among partners and interested others are critical to creating systemic change that improves the health and socioeconomic stability of rural communities across the nation.

The HEAL Advisory Committee consists of regional partners representing four academic hubs located in the San Joaquin Valley: UC Merced, UC San Francisco at Fresno, CSU Fresno Central Valley Health Policy Institute (CVHPI), and Bakersfield College (BC).

Rural HEAL Advisory Committee at Bakersfield College Delano campus

The HEAL Collaborative engages in various pilot projects and initiatives that catalyze efforts to address rural health inequities, educational attainment, workforce demands, and improve wellness, using this three-pronged approach:

  1. Develops and scales regionally high demand high wage pathways in education and health sciences
  2. Establishes programs that meet rural workforce development needs
  3. Focuses on advancing rural health equity and improving well-being to foster social and economic mobility of rural American families through the lens of research projects and community outreach in California's Central Valley

HEAL's short- and long-term strategic priorities encompass an overarching commitment to serve as a catalyst for local, state and national collaboration and as a progressive, creative force on behalf of all rural health constituencies/communities.

HEAL's Strategic Priorities

To fulfill our mission and implement vision, HEAL will:

  • Advocate for rural health and healthy communities by informing policy makers and stakeholders about Central Valley circumstances
  • Launch pilot studies designed to create regional outreach toolkits and trainings addressing rural health, food security, and well-being
  • Strengthen the regional workforce and economy
  • Engage in regional dialog to engender policy creation at the national level
  • Enhance rural economic and community growth across the nation through a linked network of information, resources and political action
  • Generate funding to ensure that resources are commensurate with rural community needs.

HEAL’s Events

HEAL’s Health-Focused Initiatives

  • UC Merced’s STOP COVID-19 Research Study
  • CSU Fresno CVHPI’s leadership with the COVID-19 Equity Project (CEP)
  • BC’s leadership in the Kern County Latino COVID-19 Task Force
  • UC Merced and BC’s Public Health Education Partnership
Dr. Brijesh Bhambi headshot

Dr. Brijesh Bhambi

Cardiologist and Chairman
Centric Health

Jon Van Boening headshot

Jon Van Boening

President and Senior VP of Operations
Dignity Health Central California

Sharlet Briggs headshot

Sharlet Briggs

Adventist Health, Bakersfield

Matthew Cauthron headshot

Matthew Cauthron

Director, Business Development and Community Relations
Delano Regional Medical Center

Sandra Celedon headshot

Sandra F. Celedon

President & CEO
Fresno Building Healthy Communities

Danielle Colayco headshot

Danielle Colayco

Director of Health Outcomes and Value Strategy of Komoto Healthcare and President and CEO
Komoto Family Foundation

Claudia Corchado headshot

Claudia G. Corchado

Program Manager
United Way of Merced, CA - Cultiva La Salud

Tom Corson headshot

Tom Corson

Executive Director
Kern County Network for Children

Dr. Jasleen Duggal headshot

Dr. Jasleen Duggal

Centric Health

Valerie Fisher headshot.

Valerie Fisher

Regional Director
Health Workforce Initiative

Shannon Grove headshot

Shannon Grove

Republican California State Senator
Representing the 16th District
Shannon Grove's Letter of Support

Kevin Hamilton headshot

Kevin Hamilton

Chief Executive Officer
Central California Asthma Collaborative

Melissa Hurtado headshot

Melissa Hurtado

Democratic California State Senator
Representing Senate District 14

Russell Judd headshot

Russell Judd

Chief Executive Officer
Kern Medical

Roland Maeirs headshot

Roland Maeirs

Executive Director
First 5 Kern

Magda Menendez headshot

Magda Menendez

Mexican American Opportunity Foundation

Lisa Mensah headshot

Lisa Mensah

President and CEO
Opportunity Finance Network

Bob Neath headshot

Bob Neath

Kern Regional Transit

Bryan Osorio headshot

Bryan Osorio

City of Delano

Stephen Pelz headshot

Stephen Pelz

Executive Director
Housing Authority of the County of Kern

Marie Perez-Dowling headshot

Marie Perez-Dowling

United Way of Kern County

Janet Rabanal headshot

Janet Rabanal

President and CEO
Delano Chamber of Commerce

Rudy Salas headshot

Rudy Salas

California State Assembly

Cheryl Scott headshot

Cheryl Scott

Executive Director
Kern Economic Development Foundation

Ashley Sodergren

Regional Director
Alzheimer's Association

Jeremy Tobias headshot

Jeremy Tobias

Chief Executive Officer
Community Action Partnership of Kern

Barbara Wallace headshot

Dr. Barbara C. Wallace

Director of Health Equity
Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education (CHEUSE)

Considering becoming a HEAL partner? For more information, please contact Norma Rojas-Mora.

Join our mailing list to stay connected!


In November 2018, Bakersfield College (BC) created a healthcare initiative for local community healthcare professionals and partners to collaborate, discuss, and strategize the future of healthcare within our community. Bruce Peters, President & CEO of Mercy Hospitals, Sharlet Briggs, President & CEO of Adventist Health, and Bakersfield cardiology specialist, Dr. Jeet Singh, were just a few of the power houses in attendance. Attendees discussed how our region can provide educational and workforce development programs that the healthcare industry needs. Attendees also discussed how to help prevent shortfalls in the Kern County healthcare workforce.

Community Healthcare Group Photo

Track Record of Convening Health-focused Engagement

Bakersfield College Convening Examples